The elaborate Odissi costumes on stage. An elegant sari or a simple salwar kurta complemented at times by a small bindi off stage. In so many years of knowing Dona Ganguly, that’s how we have seen her most of the times. This time we called her up with a special request of a fashion photo shoot. And she was game. On a Thursday morning we reached her Behala residence, with designer Parama Ghosh of Parama, with her large suitcase of saris and blouses and make-up and hair pro Abhijith Chanda, in tow. Parama laid out her saris for Dona to choose from and Abhijith his brushes and make-up. With her pet, the cute Sugar, almost her shadow, resting at her feet, Dona sat down for make-up. Over chai, biscuits and cold drink, we shot. Dona draping one sari after another and then selecting from her jewellery collection, appropriate accessories for the looks. And, she was spot on! Post the shoot, more adda was in store over chilli chicken, chowmein, fried rice and ice cream.
Is this the most you have dressed up off the stage?
I normally dress up for the stage and not really off it. Even for interviews, I am not that dressed up. I’d put on something nice and do my own make-up. We have done it for t2 too in the past. This was different. This is probably my first fashion shoot in the last nine-10 years. I have really not shot for anyone….
Are you not comfortable?
It’s not that I mind either, but it’s not like I’d do it pretty often. It’s only for you all that I did it. We deck up so much for the stage anyway. And, we don’t really pose when we are performing. The photographs are more spontaneous. I find those much better. In a photo shoot, you are posing and you don’t know what to do with your hands and you are conscious about your smile. But it was a good experience.
Dona draped this white khadi sari with naturally dyed indigo border and hand-block printed marigolds paired with a peach jamdani blouse with hand-embroidered roses. #SoftSoothingSubtle
You are anyway camera shy and don’t want the spotlight on you and are hardly decked up otherwise…
I am not decked up all the time. My mother-in-law (Nirupa Ganguly) loved it. Today when I was about to change after the shoot, she said: ‘Don’t take it off. You are looking so nice’. (‘Aami chai shob shomoi sheje thakuk… fit fat,’ Nirupa Ganguly adds.) (Dona laughs) I am more casual.
These saris were not your style, but you were game experimenting…
They were looking beautiful and it looked wonderful in the pictures. The saris were in cotton and it’s a great choice in this heat. We did a mix of gorgeous styles and subdued combinations.
What is your preferred summer style?
A white kurta and dupatta.
Dona looked stunning in this black Mangalgiri cotton with Bengal jewellery motifs done in kantha embroidery. The red jamdani blouse had bel phool motifs hand-embroidered all over.
You wear a lot of saris too…
Saris are more of a formal wear. Our house is a little conservative. Jokhon aami prothom ashtam, we were always in saris. Now, the outlook has slowly become modern, but I don’t think Western outfits go well with my personality. So, I stick to my salwars and saris. At formal gatherings, saris look lovely and I prefer to wear them.
Black is my all-time favourite and I don’t go for busy designs. I like vibrant colours like blues and maybe reds. I am short and lots of detailing eats into my frame further. So, I wear slim borders.
I have so many saris that now I do window shopping and until and unless I really like a sari, I won’t buy it. I have cottons and silks and crepes. I used to wear a lot of chiffons.
Are you open to experimenting after this?
Let the pictures come out! I don’t think I’d do it for anybody except you all. You all are too sweet! Anything for you all.
It’s not that I mind either, but it’s not like I’d do it pretty often. It’s only for you all that I did it. We deck up so much for the stage anyway. And, we don’t really pose when we are performing. The photographs are more spontaneous. I find those much better. In a photo shoot, you are posing and you don’t know what to do with your hands and you are conscious about your smile. But it was a good experience… I don’t think I’d do it for anybody except you all. You all are too sweet! Anything for you all
Choosing the saris for Dona Ganguly were a little tricky for me. I have seen her either all dressed up for stage shows, with heavy jewellery and make-up, what the dance performance demands from her. In real life, I have seen her wearing subtle colours, never going overboard with make-up or colours on the sari. So, I had to be careful. I had to choose saris which she would pick up on a summer day. I chose both muted and bright colours. I wanted to see how a bright red or lots of embroidery looks on her. I wanted to break the image I had seen her in forever. I think she looked absolutely brilliant.
I think she was effortless in carrying all the saris. As a textile artist, I always like seeing people break the norms in what they have always dressed up in and try new things. The black sari had a lot of work and I was sceptical if she would wear it, but I think she looked brilliant. She told me that the blouses seemed tailor-made, which is like a huge compliment for me. She beautifully fit into the blouses.
We always have this preconceived notion about achievers that they might not be friendly with you or you might be intimidated. But she was so down to earth and made us so comfortable and fed us so much! For me, it’s always the woman who is wearing it and she is brilliant. That was the best bit about working with her
— Parama Ghosh
I have kept the look minimal. I smudged her eyelids, contoured her face and gave her pinkish lips. In the last look, I enhanced her lips with a touch of maroon
— Abhijith Chanda